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Burkino Faso: violations of core labour standards

Serious violations of core labour standards in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali

New ICFTU report submitted to the WTO:

Serious violations of core labour standards in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali

Brussels 30 June 2004 (ICFTU Online): The ICFTU today published a new report on core labour standards in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, exposing the problems facing workers and trade unions in these countries.

The report, launched to coincide with the WTO Trade Policy Review this week, highlights frequent violations of basic workers' rights such as the right to organise and the right to collective bargaining. Legal restrictions exist on the right to strike, and civil servants are exposed to serious limitations on their right to strike For example, there are excessive restrictions on the notice period required before strikes can take place. The majority of the workforce in the 3 countries is employed in the informal economy, mainly in subsistence agriculture, and none of the governments does enough to ensure respect for workers concerned. Women in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali are generally employed in low-wage and low-skilled jobs. In all three countries, many women can be found working in the informal economy, especially in the subsistence-farming sector. On the subject of discrimination and equal payment, the ICFTU report highlights substantial wage gaps, for example 30% in the public sector and 15% in the private sector in Mali. The female literacy rate is very low in all three countries, lying at 12% in Mali, 9% in Burkina Faso and 18% in Benin.

Child labour is prevalent in all three countries, and enforcement of legislation is often limited to the formal wage economy. Most children work in the informal economy, mainly in agriculture (on family farms and plantations) and also as vendors and domestic servants. Statistics from the Ministry of Labour of Burkina Faso estimated that, in the year 2000, 50% of children were employed in some form of activity. School enrolment is low in the three countries, in particular enrolment of girls, few children go on to secondary school, and children living in rural areas often have poor access to education.

Although Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali have ratified the core Conventions on Forced Labour, the practice does exist. Many women and children are trafficked for forced prostitution, forced labour on plantations and domestic work. Moreover, many children are sold to neighbouring countries (like Togo and Ivory Coast) and forced to work on plantations or in domestic work under harsh and dangerous conditions while receiving very low pay, if any at all.

The report also notes the vital importance of cotton exports for the three West African countries, both in terms of development and poverty reduction as well as for their social and political stability, and calls for an elimination of cotton subsidies by the US and the European Union.

In conclusion, the ICFTU calls upon the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali to apply the core labour conventions they have ratified and to bring their legislation into line with ILO Conventions No. 87 and No. 138. Furthermore, the governments must take effective measures to increase participation of women in the formal wage economy including in positions of authority, and to increase the training of women. The ICFTU underlines the governments' obligation to eliminate child labour, while at the same time increasing school enrolment and access to education. The three governments must take measures to abolish forced labour, in particular, the selling of children to work on plantations and domestic work, and make notable progress in eliminating the trafficking of women and children to neighbouring countries.

To read the full report:

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